On Tuesday Emerald and I were out shopping, and we stopped at Taco Casa to grab some lunch. While I was waiting in line, I noticed the man standing in front of me. He was probably in his fifties and looked like he had just rolled out of bed. His hair was greasy and matted. His eyes were bloodshot. He had obviously dug his clothes out of a pile and thrown on some flip flops and came to get tacos.
I immediately rolled my eyes internally. I wondered if he was hungover. In my heart I labeled him a loser during the sixty seconds that I summed him up, and then it was my turn to order and I forgot all about him.
When our order was ready, I grabbed our tray and turned to search for a table, but I couldn’t really concentrate on any open seats. Because right there at the front of the restaurant sat the exhausted looking man, arranging his wife’s food in front of her on the table and asking if she needed anything.
His wife was in a wheelchair. She looked sick and frail, and I could tell that she was highly medicated due to her swollen face, a sign that she is taking high doses of steroids. Despite her sickly appearance, I noticed that she was well dressed, in clothing that was clean and pressed. Her hair was styled and cared for, though thin, her shoes perfectly coordinated with her nice outfit.
I realized that the reason the man looked so bad while I was sizing him up in line was because he was expending all his energy on caring for his ailing wife, and had none left to devote to himself. He had gotten her up that morning, made sure she was clean and had clean clothes, and helped her get dressed. He styled her once thick, once shiny black hair and helped her apply makeup to the face that he had first gazed at across a high school gym someplace, maybe, back when she was young and strong and beautiful.
Right there in front of me in the middle of a fast food restaurant, he was living out one of the most difficult parts of marriage: he was taking care of his wife.
Her swollen face and thinning hair didn’t dull his memories of happier days. Her lack of independence wasn’t causing him to wish that he had never married her. He was simply doing what he has been called to do by God Himself: he was loving her.
Most of us haven’t had an experience that extreme yet. But, even when we aren’t in the middle of a huge crisis like that couple is, we should constantly be in the mode of taking care of each other. And, it’s difficult, even on the best days.
Think about what we hear many couples grumbling about: Men complain because their wives cost them so much money, and women complain because their husbands cause them so much work. But, wouldn’t our marriages be stronger, more God-honoring, if we considered supporting each other in our work and our finances and in every other way just a great privilege of being blessed with a lifelong partner and friend?
I wonder how often the tired husband that I saw daydreams of the days that most of us are living right now, when no one is sick, when our biggest issues are who isn’t picking up after themselves or who bought a new pair of shoes when it wasn’t in the budget? We should get on our knees every day and thank God that we are healthy, that we are able to care for each other with relative ease, and then we should serve each other without complaint.
When the days come, as they will, that one of us has to do more, be more, when one is giving everything because that’s what’s needed, and the other is giving very little because that’s all they can do, we will already be in a mindset that says, I will take care of you until my dying breath. And we will thank God for the privilege.
Dirty socks on the floor just really don’t seem like such a burden when you look at it that way.
When we said for better or for worse, that included all the best, bright shininess of life and all the worst, dark devastation of life. We are meant to take care of each other through it all, and with God’s help surely we can lay down our life for our closest friend–one dirty sock, one credit card bill at a time.